No Thanks
Keep In Touch With

Sign up and we'll send inspiration straight to you.

Martha Stewart takes your privacy seriously. To learn more, please read our Privacy Policy.

Five Things to Stop Hoarding

Kevin Sharkey
Executive Editorial Director Decorating, Home, and Style
Five Things to Stop Hoarding
Photography: Kate Mathis

Every collector knows that there's a fine line between curating an assemblage of treasures and hoarding them, something that happens when a collector loses control (or count) of his treasure trove. Even if you've found yourself close to the latter—it happens so easily with beautiful things especially—be comforted that the season of purging is upon us.

In the spirit of starting the new year off right, I've detailed below the clutter-culprits that sneak up most easily in my life. 

1. Unless you re-use them, eliminate that stash of once-used paper and plastic shopping bags. Paper ones can go right into a recycling bin, and plastic ones can be donated to farmers and flea markets (or even animal shelters) for re-use.

2. Same goes for boxes. Truly beautiful boxes worth keeping are actually rare, so though my Achilles heel is a well-made box, I've limited myself to keeping Hermes and Marc Jacobs boxes.

3. As much as it pains me to say it, get rid of some of your magazines. Rip out the things you're interested in and file them. In the industry we call this "swipe." Martha calls me The Tear-orist because I'm ruthless about ripping things out.

4. Beauty and cleaning products. I don't know what it is, but everyone wants to open that new bottle of product before finishing the last. Toss forgotten half-used bottles or commit to using them up before puncturing a new seal.

5. Mugs. Break them all! Novelty mugs are the bane of my existence. Buy one nice set and leave it at that.

Kevin Sharkey
About the Author
Kevin Sharkey is Senior Vice President and Executive Editorial Director, Decorating, and Executive Creative Director, Merchandising for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (MSLO). A designer and all-around creative expert, he plays a vital role in shaping MSLO’s editorial content and product designs. Mr. Sharkey came to MSLO in 1995 from Parish-Hadley, a venerable New York ... Read More

Comments (40)

  • AmyeToTheRescue 4 Apr, 2014

    I love your posts. I wish I could get them to my inbox. I subscribe to the newsletter but never see your posts!
    This is a good one!

  • Ludona 29 Mar, 2014

    So sorry to be taking up more comment space but after reading all the comments about saving MSL ... I have 10 years of MSL and into my 11th! I keep them in nice magazine boxes on top of a long shelving unit in my kitchen office. Every year I get rid of 1-3 more cookbooks to make room. I made the mistake of donating 5 year's worth of my original magazines from MSL when we moved and I've mourned them ever since! NEVER AGAIN!

  • Ludona 29 Mar, 2014

    I've done everything you recommended. I have given some of my prize heritage thimbles to my daughters and granddaughters and donated beautiful swatches of fabrics I will never use to a quilting sister-in-law. But you did not address the husband/man who "over" collects specialty books, tools, records, video games. My husband recently came to the reality that since our children left home 10 years ago he has filled the streamlined spaces with "stuff". We are now down-sizing HIS collections.

  • NanaTaunton 25 Jan, 2014

    Oops! Cannot count! Channels 2, 44 and the Create Channel out of Boston and channel 8 out of Providence.

  • NanaTaunton 25 Jan, 2014

    This was so helpful! I'm 81 and have begun simplifying my life. The thought of leaving a mess for my family to clean up, appalls me! I am a voracious reader. Books are my friends. I sorted them out and tool them to my local library where a good many of the hardcovers went into circulation and the rest to a book sale. It was difficult to stay away from that book sale!! For the person in the Boston area who cannot get Martha on TV...I have Verizon FiOS and can get Martha's shows on PBS; channel 2

  • Marlene Greenberg 11 Jan, 2014

    I started clearing out everything in November 2012 when I got a new set of cookware. I tore my kitchen apart and got rid of everything including my old pots and pans by listing on ebay and Craig's List and donating . Then I made a resolution to remove 3-4 items for every item I brought into the house. It has proven to be very successful. Now my daughter has given me all of her items - she now wants me to list her stuff since I was so successful!!!

  • chayo 9 Jan, 2014

    I have years and years of martha's magazines. I wouldn't do that and just tear just the stuff I'm interested in, that's would also take forever. by the way I would like to see if I get one of your living magazines autograaphed by you Martha. Please! I will mail it to you and pay return postage>???

  • jules2015 5 Jan, 2014

    I'm trying to declutter and have realised that I have a plastic bag, paper bag and box problem. All now are going to be recycled! Also appear to have an addiction with notebooks have found enough to last me a lifetime!

  • Lavender21 5 Jan, 2014

    We've got the biggest back yard, so we inherited the overflow of my parents plants when they moved into a retirement village. They are both in assisted living now - Mum for just over a year & Dad longer. We got all the plants then too. We keep asking my three brothers & sisters and all the kids, most of whom are married to please have some plants. They sold their house 25 YEARS AGO! What's left is all in baskets and pots and is crowded into about 35 feet x 20 feet. Is this hoarding do you think

  • shiloh78 4 Jan, 2014

    I hate novelty mugs too. I used to feel so alone. Now I don't! Thanks, Kevin!

  • Jori Calvert 4 Jan, 2014

    After working in a Dr.s office, I had so many patients wanting me to copy an article out of a magazine or they would tear out the article or just take the magazine! I ask people if they have a camera in their phone (most do now) so I tell them to just take a picture of the article. This works great and no paper trail .

  • kinzer 4 Jan, 2014

    PLEASE make MSL available digitally! I would love to get rid of my collection, but still have the info available.

  • CouzCat 3 Jan, 2014

    I purge relentlessly and like you tear up even MSL and file by category in 3 ring binders but boxes are my bête noir. If I'm not careful I will become a hoarder!

  • mishopper 3 Jan, 2014

    Our local library has established a magazine recycling box so after reading MSL or other magazines, I happily share my magazines with others.

  • slondon81 3 Jan, 2014

    I'm a total tear-orist! Except now I have a file box overflowing with unorganized magazine tear-outs. My goal is to go through it and eliminate what I can and find the original article on the source's site so I can pin it on Pinterest and then toss the hard version.

  • ladylocks 3 Jan, 2014

    Plants. I discovered I have been hoarding plants. I have begun to donate my "my collection" to local plant sales. I still have a way to go, but it is a start. Now, if I could only get my spouse to. . . . .

    I have sturdy grocery bags in the cars so I have conquered the bag problem. For half used cleaning supplies, check the internet for a recycling event for those items.

    I would also love a disc of MSL from the beginning of publication.


  • jeannette 3 Jan, 2014

    If you come to my house you can have a cup of coffee in a nice coffee cup or a cup of tea in a nice tea cup. No ugly mugs. But . . . I do have a problem with the other four which are fixable. My biggest dilemma is my MSL mags. Still love them. Can't tear. I have torn from other mags and now have a stack of paper. I am switching to pulling up on my laptop and adding to folders. I have A LOT of MSL mags that will stay on the shelf. The only answer is for this publication to cease! Not.

  • mygreenmouth 3 Jan, 2014

    Absolutely DO NOT toss cleaning products. What absolutely hazardous advice for the environment! Use them up.

    Then buy more and make your own.

  • howdydoodysuzanne 3 Jan, 2014

    I'm a Tearrorist too ... every couple of weeks, go through my magazines, "swipe" recipes I want, file them and throw out the paper. Boxes and plastic bags are next to go!

  • Nanabeans 3 Jan, 2014

    Thank you Kevin, I must be on the right track. I only save up to 4 boxes, I bought a set of mugs 4 months ago and tossed the souvenir mugs in our RV stash, and as for plastic bags if they don't fit in my Simple Human bag holder, out they go! I hate partially used bottles of anything, if I can't find someone who will use it, bye bye! As for the magazines, I used to tear out only what I wanted to keep, now I take a picture and save to my computer for future reference.

  • VHMachala 3 Jan, 2014

    Instead of decorating for the holidays I purged our kitchen cabinets. Donated 5 bins of pots, pans, dishes, mugs and small appliances that we don't use anymore. It's amazing being well organized can make a difference on becoming more efficient when preparing meals and keeping the kitchen clean.

  • Nancie 3 Jan, 2014

    I scan into my computer pictures, recipes, etc. that I like from magazines. Then I donate the magazines to our library or rehab center. I also buy books at garage sales, and donate them to our library.

  • Cynthia M 3 Jan, 2014

    I like my collection of mugs. I have my favorites for different seasons. I also like to use them when I have a party. I'd rather put out 25 or 30 mismatched mugs than give my guests styrofoam. Just saying.

  • michaelmcgurk 2 Jan, 2014

    Kevin, I can't stand clutter. I can't stand hoarding. And there's no way I could stand with out my MSL's from the last 9 years!

  • bakergail 2 Jan, 2014

    Kevin, if you at MSL would simply put ALL of the past issues of MSL together so we could buy a digital copy it would get rid of a LOT of clutter! So come on, help us out! Then we'll talk about all those "old lady" teacups I need to get rid of, then the 7 sets of china, and then. . well, we'll go from there! Thanks for the wonderful LIVING ideas from you! Have a wonderful 2014!

  • fresia98 2 Jan, 2014

    I have 4 years of Martha Stewart living and I can't bring myself to tear them up! I can do it with others but not Martha and Sunset Magazine. My family is east coast and I am West Coast.

  • suziehistory412 2 Jan, 2014

    I'm so guilty of having old partially-used bottles/containers of cleaning products! I never thought of it as hoarding, but you are so right, it is! Ready to get rid of them now. Thanks.

  • dm5692 2 Jan, 2014

    I love my mugs! This is a difficult one! All the others I am ok with!

  • jhawes08 2 Jan, 2014

    I have a small collection of mugs, but I limit myself. If I really want another one or someone gave me something lovely, I do away with another. I get bored easily, so I can get rid of old ones with no problem! I no longer collect magazines, BUT you will have to kill me before you take my collection of Everyday Food! I take out all of the current month's issues and try to shop and meal plan around them. Made me so happy to plan last Thanksgiving's meal around six years of EDF!

  • new_berries 2 Jan, 2014

    Broke my heart, but just recently got rid of 10 years of MSL and 20 years of Bon Appetit. Figure it is all online, but so much prettier on paper!

  • TheyCallMeMaude 2 Jan, 2014

    Great reminder for starting the year off fresh. Thanks!

  • lisabendel 2 Jan, 2014

    Magazines are my weakness (and bone china cups, saucers & teapots!). I may have a hoarding problem with these, but the magazines are neatly organized and stored out-of-sight, except for the current month's issues. The china is displayed throughout my home, with many pieces stored in cabinets. I "rotate" what is displayed throughout the year. The only novelty mugs I buy are ones from a major theme park (I live in FL). I collect those sparingly. My collection of "stuff" makes me happy.

  • knittingqueenDonna 2 Jan, 2014

    I saved every Martha magazine since its inception - including the specials holiday etc ones. Had a house fire in April 2013 and lost many of them. So sad! Those that were worth saving ~tore out the articles, pictures that I "needed" and threw the rest away. At least I have something of the old Martha magazines. BTW, I can't get one TV program with Martha where I live. PBS does not have them here in the Boston, MA area.

  • GetrealwithSteve 2 Jan, 2014

    We have every Architectural Digest magazine back to 1972. I can never tear into them. We also have Veranda back to 1989. We also have Martha's magazines back to the mid 1990's. These are the only magazines that we keep. They are all stored neatly in bookcases. Is this hoarding?

  • Vypies 2 Jan, 2014

    The whole reason I read this article was to see what you had to say about magazines. I have collected all of Martha Stewart Living since it began and can't decide if I should get rid of them. Is that hoarding? They're so beautiful and still full of life! Its my one big collection.

  • Tytoalba 2 Jan, 2014

    Plastic bags can also be returned to many supermarkets for recycling. For those reusing them, they can also be flattened, rolled handle-overlapping-bottom, and placed into an old Lysol wipe tube. This allows them to be stored neatly and readily available.

    Oh, and novelty mugs? Such a waste of space. They should all be banished to the kitchen at work to die.

  • ahr023 2 Jan, 2014

    I am guilty of the magazines and beauty and cleaning products. Same feeling on novelty mugs! Have to laugh that my mother who is always telling me to declutter my home almost ruined the backs of the moving men who had to carry her complete collection of Martha Stewart Living magazines when she moved in 2006. She had every issue since the first saved up until that point. I cannot wait to forward this list to her.

  • grabr 2 Jan, 2014

    Dear Kevin Sharkey, more important than bringing plastic bags to farmer's markets would be to bring them to a local grocery store or other large retail stores that will collect them for recycling as well!

  • immy79 2 Jan, 2014

    Amen on the mugs! And really, any novelty drinkware. Unless it's some fabulous, vintage, COMPLETE set, give them away. Organizing cupboards is so much more pleasing when you can count on matching shapes/colors. Call me cray, but it makes me happy... :)

  • doulajess 2 Jan, 2014

    I am ALWAYS tearing out pages of magazines to read later. I have forewarn others when they grab a magazine of mine to read later:-)